Remote job hunting for new BA graduates, part 2

“I’m graduating soon, and want to work remotely; how do I get a remote job?”

I’ve gotten this question for a few years, and quite a bit recently, so I wanted to write a few posts about my thoughts on this, and how they’ve changed over time. Part 1 provides some background context. This is Part 2, where I’ll discuss getting a job for new graduates (remote or not). Part 3 applies that to a remote context and provides some other resources.

So, graduating senior, you want to get a job. You want to live somewhere interesting, do work that matters, and earn a good living. That’s great!

I’ve been teaching at a university in Lithuania for 8 years now, and have watched several hundred of my former students graduate and enter the job market. Here are a few observations on that first job hunt, in no particular order:

1. Your network matters a lot for that first job. Family, friends, previous graduates, etc. Ask them all if there are job openings at their company in the area you’re interested in. They are the most likely way that you’ll end up with a job.

2. Signalling is extremely important. In this case, you want to signal that you’re young, ready to learn, but also have some experience and the ability to work. Part of this is being willing to take a ‘junior’ role, or an ‘entry-level’ job, even if you think it’ll be too boring/basic/easy – most companies are happy to promote you out of those roles after a year or two if you signal your competence.

How do you signal that in reality? Your new BA diploma will signal young, and able to learn at some level. You signal your experience by showing potential employers work that you have already done. Show, don’t tell. Telling them ‘I worked on this project’ isn’t nearly as helpful as ‘Here is the business plan I wrote, and here’s an example of when I lead an event (with social media links and photos), etc.’

Much of signalling is your digital presence. You should have a LinkedIn account which has been completely filled out. Each previous job should have a description of what you did, at least with a few bullet points. A LinkedIn recommendation from a previous employer or two doesn’t hurt, nor do links to things you’ve done online. If you’re applying for a creative role, you should have a portfolio website demonstrating your past work, and the appropriate social media accounts (YouTube/Twitch/Instagram/etc). If you’re applying for a technical role, you need a GitHub account with at least a couple of public, well-documented repositories. If your role is adjacent to a tech/creative role (e.g. customer support or account executive or social media marketing), consider having a website/GitHub too. (And please, lock down and clean up your Facebook/Twitter/vKontakte/Instagram so employers only see the positive side of you!)

Employers know that you’re a recent graduate and don’t have a lot of experience. Show them the little experience that you have so far, even if it’s not exactly the same as the role that you’re applying for. A centralized place that has all of your past work – videos, websites, marketing plans, event planning, etc – can be a very helpful signal to employers. Your goal isn’t to signal ‘I’m ready for a non-Junior role’ or ‘I have five years of experience’; it’s to signal ‘You can hire many different recent BA graduates; I’m more prepared than most BA graduates for work at your company.’

3. You also need to signal to the company that you know who they are, and that you want to work there. If you signal ‘I just want a job, any job’, they’re going to recognize that and not want to hire you. How you send this signal varies based on company and application process; custom cover letters and resumes, custom online portfolios, etc. If you get an interview with a company, you must do several hours of research before the interview – what does the company do, what part of the company would you work in, etc. If you know who will be interviewing you, do research on them too.

You should not signal that you know everything, or think the job will be too easy for you – I made this mistake when job hunting after my BA! You will learn as much in your first few years of work as you have the past 4 years of university. Don’t signal that you know everything.

Now, looking at these factors in regards to remote work, it gets a bit more complex – but more on that in Part 3!

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